Dir en grey | Tabula Rasa @ Kyoto KBS Hall (4/20/2013)
The Bulgarian Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I hurried through the Imperial Palace grounds as the megaphones calling numbers grew louder. We arrived to see a mob of fans freezing in their t-shirts out in the rain. The crowd was more VK than I expected; I guess not all the fangirls ditched the band at The Marrow of a Bone and beyond.
”This is nice - for the first time in Kyoto I feel like I fit in somewhere.”
For once she wasn’t the only one with dyed hair and tattoos. She also coincidentally had the side of her head shaved just like Kyo! It was only a month ago when I introduced her to Dir en grey, and after hearing a few songs she was willing to give their show a shot.
I saw another foreigner and helped him get a day-of ticket. His number was in the 1500s, just 200 worse than ours, which were purchased at Lawson immediately when they went on sale last month. Apparently you need to be in the fan club to get a reasonable number. So this guy was on a two-week business trip to Hong Kong, and decided to fly over to Kyoto for less than a day to see the concert. He asked us how old we thought he was and we guessed 35 - the answer was fuckin’ 22!
"Why do they have these numbers?"
"Because it’s the order of entry."
"But it’s an open hall right? You can get anywhere in a mosh pit."
"People are going to be basically standing in place, headbanging, maybe jumping up and down. This is Japan! Imagine yourself watching Dir en grey from a bed of flowers shaking in the wind.
I stashed our extra clothes in a bag they were handing out and paid 500 yen to check it on the third floor. That was the one shitty aspect of this venue - hundreds of people waiting in line to retrieve their bags from upstairs after the show.
Entering the hot and packed hall, we took up positions behind some shorties near the back, Die’s side of center stage. The lights dimmed and the crowd didn’t rush forward like I had experienced years ago; guess I wasn’t going to get closer to the stage. The introductory “kyokotsu no nari” played and I was surprised by a few sudden, isolated SCREAMS from around me. It was so loud I thought it was from the speakers, but then I realized it was the fans when I started picking out names. “DIEEE!!!” barked someone right behind me - I’m pretty sure I heard that same girl in 2007 in Tokyo. She never let up the whole night. With others yapping “Shinya Shinya Shinya!” or howling “Kyoooo!” it felt like I was at a dog shelter.
The guys took up their positions individually, and the crowd peaked when Kyo walked out. Starting off with “Karma” set the awesomely dark mood for the night. I don’t know if it was because of the band’s equipment or the venue’s, but the sound quality was FANTASTIC, with the vocals and drums really standing out, and nothing lost in the mix. After getting used to Danchou’s muffled voice at NoGoD shows in tiny clubs, I couldn’t believe how clear Kyo sounded. Years ago I was put off by him missing half his parts and I stopped paying attention to their DVDs, so I had low expectations, but he just blew me away with his range of sounds and beautiful, spot on choruses (other than “Juuyoku” - why doesn’t he ever get that first note!?). I wonder if he tries to be more controlled since his recent vocal chord trouble. In any case, I was happy to see him sticking much closer to the records than he used to.
Overall, the show felt extremely professional, more like a morbid opera than a rock concert. During many songs atmospheric imagery was projected behind them - a submerged car for “Bottom of the Death Valley,” maggots for “The Blossoming Beelzebub.” At the beginning of that one Kyo draped the middle of a long flowing black cloth over his head. By the end it was wrapped around his face and his red mic cable made a noose around his neck. For “Kiri to Mayu” Kyo faced away from the crowd, growling at a cheap camera projecting an ultra close-up on the wall. It felt especially meaningful to hear “Kasumi” in Kyoto, as it’s the story of a child in Gion (Geisha district) who will never make it to May. After looking up the lyrics now I always notice his last whispered words describing the location of her body under the tatami (tatami no shita).
It was an expert crowd, as at all the “one-man” shows in Japan, where everyone knows exactly when to jump up with fists raised and everyone joined in on the choruses. When they sang “Obscure” I had a hard time placing it - what song is this? Later I realized it was the new version, which sounds like the old one gone horribly wrong. The last quarter of the set was weighed down with heavy songs, and I received 100 sweet-smelling lashes from the girl’s hair behind me for not headbanging enough. The crowd’s singing was most enthusiastic in “Hageshisa to…”, but my favorite part had to be that last chorus of “The Final” when everybody joined in and it felt like being swept up in a huge wave.
As usual, there were no MCs, just a few “Kyotooooo!!”, “Ushiroooo!!”, “Otokoooo!!”. The set flew by with only one real break, because Kyo performed his disturbing contortions a couple times to let the other guys rest. He didn’t even say “Last song!” before starting into “The Final,” leading the first-timer to ask, “That’s all?” when the lights came up.
But then came the words I’d been hoping to hear, “That was awesome! I’ll be joining you for the next concert!”